In a special appearance at American University, a former porn star made use of academic freedom in a manner that college officials can live with.
A passage from an alternative college newspaper helps to illustrate the boundaries that colleges and universities are willing to place on free speech. “Ann Coulter is an enigma,” The Stanford Review’s Taylor Cox writes of the frequently heckled conservative columnist university officials welcome grudgingly. “So much so, that I think she deserves to become the topic of Stanford’s next PWR [Program in Writing and Rhetoric] class.”
“It would be even better and more outrageous than ‘The Rhetoric of Menstruation’ that was included in the course bulletin last year.” Meanwhile, back at AU…
Just last week, “Former porn star and sexologist Annie Sprinkle warned her audience to cover their eyes if they were offended by her multimedia talk about her life in the sex industry in Ward 1 Monday night,” according to a story by Laraine Weschler that appeared in the AU Eagle. “‘Sex was easy, acting was hard,’ she said.”
“Sprinkle, an artist, sexologist and former prostitute who spent much of the ‘70s and ‘80s as a porn star, spoke to around 300 people in an event sponsored by AU Queers and Allies and the College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Student Council.”
A university-sponsored debate on academic freedom held at AU earlier in the month drew a crowd of about a dozen and none of the panelists were paid for their time. Although, understandably, students might find the Sprinkle event more interesting, it begs the question I asked a young man doing a story on porn in the classroom for the University Newswire: Why spend thousands of dollars in college to get what you can find off campus for tens of dollars?
Also, why should everyone who foots the bill for such college fare whether they like it or not—namely parents, students and taxpayers—get stuck with the tab? And how does this compare with one of AU’s mission statements: “American University (AU) is for students who want to understand—and influence—how the world works. AU’s academically rigorous curriculum enables students to combine serious theoretical study with meaningful real-world learning experiences.”
If federal funds were involved in the staging of the Sprinkle appearance at AU, it would not be the first time that she has collected a government subsidy for her work. Back in the 1980s, Sprinkle was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which she bragged about in her show at the time.
Although the student journalist at The Eagle describes Ms. Sprinkle as an artist, the young lady fails to mention that the art that the veteran performer has performed is just that—performance art. Her NEA-funded performance art involved pouring chocolate sauce on herself and then covering the base with bean sprouts. Maybe that’s why this federally-funded human sundae got an appropriation: Her props were vegetarian.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.